Why our school bans energy drinks

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Students notice impact of energy drinks

In our school we have a policy where we have banned energy drinks.

Even though this is an explicit rule, students still consume energy drinks every day in school and outside of school.

For example Phoebe, aged 14, drinks energy drinks for dance whereas Brogan, also 14, drinks them without doing any sports.

"Including my energy drink during dance, this means that I drink three a week," said Phoebe.

"I think they taste good and give you a good energy burst but they have too much sugar in. People don't realise this as they don't think about how much sugar they are taking in. Energy drinks are good for when you exercise as you can burn the sugar off."

In this report we looked into how effective the ban is, how much sugar and caffeine there is in one energy drink, the effects they have on us physically and mentally as well as our views of energy drinks and how they are dealt with in school.

Ned, who is also 14, used to drink up to two a day, making him feel quite ill and unable to concentrate on his schoolwork. This was because of the excessive amount of sugar and caffeine that is in energy drinks and the fact that they have chemicals in them.

At our school we have learned about healthy eating and diets. When doing this we learned about how much sugars and calories we are allowed daily. Frankie and Billy believe that students should be informed with more knowledge about sugars and the dangers of having too much caffeine or drinking energy drinks.

To find out more we asked some questions to health experts.

Advice from the experts

We asked Public Health England (PHE) and the British Heart Foundation (BHF) some questions about energy drinks - here are their answers.

What is the recommended amount of sugar that a teenager should have in one day?

PHE & BHF - From the age of 11 years into adulthood, it is recommended that free sugar, all sugars added to food and drink products by the cook, consumer or manufacturer, accounts for no more than 5% of your daily calories. This is around 30g of sugar or seven sugar cubes per day. At the moment sugar provides between 11 and 15% of food energy.

Could too much sugar lead to life threatening illnesses and if so what?

PHE - The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition has found that eating and drinking too much sugar can cause tooth decay and lead to weight gain and obesity, which increases your risk of life-threatening illnesses including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and breast and bowel cancer.

BHF - We gain weight if the amount of energy we consume is not balanced out with the amount of activity we do.

Are the ingredients in energy drinks actually contributing anything to our bodies?

PHE - There are a range of energy drinks on the market, each likely to differ slightly in its ingredients. Generally, energy drinks are high in caffeine, sugar and calories. As most of us are already consuming too much sugar, regularly consuming energy drinks can increase your free sugar intake to above the recommended maximum.

BHF - The main thing that energy drinks will provide us with is energy - from the sugar that is added to them. It would be more nutritious to have water or a glass of low fat milk.

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Are energy drinks actually effective in reducing how tired we are?

PHE - Caffeine is a stimulant and is able to offer a temporary energy boost, similar to that of tea and coffee which also contain caffeine. However, the effects of caffeine are transitory and so cannot be used as a long-term solution to tiredness.

Do you think it is right that schools should ban energy drinks?

BHF - The government is responsible for the standards that are in place for schools to help ensure that the food and drink children and young people receive is nutritious and well-balanced.

Not selling sugar sweetened drinks in school will help to encourage young people to make healthy choices about what they eat and drink, and set up good habits for later on in life.

What would your advice to teenagers be about energy drinks?

PHE - Energy drinks are not a healthy choice, particularly for children and young people. In some people caffeine can cause increased irritability, nervousness or anxiety, particularly if you are not used to it. Public Health England has recently advised that sugary drinks have no place in a child's daily diet

Too much sugar in the diet means too many calories leading to weight gain and obesity. Obese children and teenagers are more likely to be bullied, have low self-esteem, miss school and become obese adults who have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

BHF - If you feel that you are lacking in energy you should look at your overall diet and lifestyle to find out why you are so tired, rather than just reaching for an energy drink. Good habits like eating well, being physically active and getting enough sleep might seem harder to do than opening a can, but sticking to a healthy routine will ensure you feel well, rested and ready for the day ahead which in turn will mean you do not need the energy drinks - as well as helping to look after your longer term heart health.

How can we control/monitor how much sugar we are having?

PHE - Front of pack food labels allow us to see at a glance the calorie content of a food or drink product and tell us whether it is low, medium or high in fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt using the colours green, amber and red to indicate this.

Sidney, another 14-year-old, said:"In Coopers, people come into school with a variety of energy drinks. They have different colours and sizes. However when we looked at the sizes, the bigger bottles have less sugar in them. This really surprises me because when you see big bottles you automatically think about more sugar, however that's not the case in this situation."

Ellie, 14, said:"I don't drink energy drinks that often but when I do, I'm normally tired or I just drink them because I like the taste."

And Lottie, 14, commented : "I think it's quite scary how many chemicals there are in these drinks that I can't spell let alone pronounce and they surely can't be good for you.

"I think that organisations and schools need to do more to properly educate students on what energy drinks have in them and the effects they have. I think that having this discussion about why our school has banned energy drinks has really given us a clearer idea of the impacts energy drinks have on us physically and mentally.

The Department for Education told us: "Schools who follow the School Food Standards cannot sell energy drinks.

"We expect schools to make the right decisions for their pupils about what food and drink young people can bring in.

"We are clear that healthy, nutritious lunches give pupils the fuel they need to learn during the day - and the School Food Standards are helping to ensure they develop healthy eating habits for life."

The British Soft Drinks Association also told us they "support the School Food Trust's rules on what drinks can be sold in schools but of course it is for teachers to decide what pupils are allowed to take into school.

"Children should consume less caffeine than adults due to their lower body weight so high caffeine content drinks are not recommended for children and this is clearly stated on the label."

Watch the full report on the Victoria Derbyshire programme on BBC Two and the BBC News Channel.